Owosso Community Players deliver serious performance

I pitied the ushers of Owosso Community Players’ “Rabbit Hole.” I struggled sitting through it once. They have to endure the play about loss and grief, show after show.

Any reader who wishes to avoid details about that loss should read no further. I found it impossible to keep specific elements of the plot secret in order to explain my reactions to the play by David Lindsay-Abaire.

The audience on opening night learned quickly what the “tragedy” Anna Owens’ “Directors Notes” referred to. Danny, a couple’s only son, was accidentally run over by a car, the wife’s sister had a surprise pregnancy after the incident, their mom lost their brother to a suicide years earlier and, if that wasn’t enough salt thrown into the wounds, the driver of the fatal car showed up repeatedly to talk about the accident.

Matt Hutchinson was Howie — the dad who at first seemed like the rock of the family and then crumbled gradually like a shoreline during a storm. Hutchinson convincingly went from suppressed torment to outbursts of anger that were frighteningly believable.

Santana Vermeesch played his wife, Becca.

Through most of the two-hour-with-15-minute-intermission play, she expertly portrayed a fragile, withdrawn and difficult-to-approach woman. Yet even when Becca showed some promise of breaking out of her shell near the end of “Rabbit Hole,” I saw no ray of sunshine. It was more like a fleck of light seen through a pinhole.

In the OCP “Rabbit Hole” program, it was revealed that Hutchinson and Vermeesch were a real husband and wife who have their own young son. To me, their willingness to occupy roles of grief-stricken parents was both admirable and torturous.

Izzy, the initially irrational and high-loving sister — played with style and authority by Amy Winchell — mellowed and matured as the “baby” growing inside her did. Winchell handled each transformation with a talent that made them all authentic.

Nat — the wildcard mom — was depicted distinctively by Deb Knipe. She was the perfect image of a woman who was hardened by a hard life who still had a soft side. Although she had some minor dialogue stumbles, Knipe never stumbled with delivering a spoton East Coast dialect. Nicholas Richardson as the tormented young driver, Jason, also was consistent with the image of an awkward teen dealing with prodigious guilt.Owens’ pacing and blocking was not as steady.

The exquisite set designed by Bryan Dryer included Danny’s bedroom in full view on the second floor of a contemporary home. Just as his passing loomed over the family, the bedroom was a constant reminder of the missing child. Having on stage a landline phone, flat-screen TV, boom box, new looking, two-door stainless fridge and VCR player to record shows — supposedly all in the same time period — seemed odd. Lyn Culp’s abundant props were also astonishingly detailed and substantial.

Alas, the commendably risky show with wonderfully represented characters was woefully hard for me to experience. Despite a talented cast and being drawn into “Rabbit Hole’s” story of heartbreak, I often would have welcomed a rabbit hole’s means of escape.

“Rabbit Hole” Friday, Nov. 10- Sunday, Nov. 12 $17/$15 Students and Seniors/ $10 Kids Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. Sun., 3 p.m.

The Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso Owossoplayers.com (989) 723-4003